Last Sunday morning I went on a very special walk. One that I had been planning for weeks. The starting point was Valley Home Farm, where I had my sister drop me off with the car. From there the plan was to walk East into the forest, then North of the Highway, through another forest, across the Sandford Fields, (stopping at the old Sanford Farm) and finally continuing North again to Steeles Avenue. I would then call my sister to come pick me up. The point of it all was to see and photograph lands I fear will disappear, if ever the bulldozer folk get their hands on them. Most of it I had never explored.
Unlike the last time I visited Valley Home Farm, this time the gate was locked shut. Which I suppose normally means KEEP OUT. I found another way in though. The laneway looked pretty in Autumn and the property was peacefully quiet. I was tempted to hang out there, but I really wanted to reach the forests.
I came upon an open field, that had been plowed. As I took photos, I heard the plaintive cry of a hawk. Which gave me a good feeling. I then entered the forest and began to hike in earnest. The trees were mostly newer growth. Their were no trails, and everything seemed relatively untouched. And their was a Creek, that was rippling and making nature music. I stopped to admire it and to rest. Further on a little, I found a place where I could cross over. When I reached the other side I left the branch that I had used to help balance me, against a small tree. Which is the Way of the Pilgrim.
Their was a Creek, that was rippling and making nature music.
I found a beautiful spot, where their were mature trees growing along a ridge that overlooked the low lying forest and the Creek. I debated whether to go up it, or move in the direction of the highway, which you could hear nearby. I chose to climb the ridge. When I reached the top and looked over the other side I noticed two wooden boxes attached to the side of a tree, about twenty feet up from the ground. Curious, I went up close to look at them, and then realized that they were houses made for Bats to live in. I had never seen one before, and was fascinated. Exhilarated actually.
I found a beautiful spot.
From there I made my way towards the highway. I knew that I would be able to get to the other side of it by following the Creek. In the tunnel the air was cool, moist and smelled like clay. Very pleasant. I discovered a trail leading from the tunnel on the north side, that led me to the other forest. I followed it with the Creek on my right. Both of us winding along together. Then I left the trail and climbed another ridge. I began to catch whiffs of sacred herb. Soon I came upon a young man smoking, and his 2 dogs. One of them ran to greet me as if I was a long lost friend. The young man offered me a puff, but I politely declined. After a short conversation, we bid adieu and I proceeded towards the edge of the forest. There was a row of Sugar Maples that looked out on the Sandford Fields, which I took a picture of. At first, I wondered if their might have been a lane way there once, but then decided that they were most likely planted because of the property line.
I was glad that I had finally reached the fields. All my life I have wanted to walk through them , and now here I finally was. The grass was tall, but the deer had made tracks. Their were soybeans that had been planted, and a beautiful Willow growing near a stream. When I reached the fence that divided the fields, I stopped and examined my surrondings. In the distance I could see two trees and beyond them more forest. The two trees turned out to be Apple trees, which someone had planted a long time ago. I hugged and kissed them, then laid down in the grass and ate an apple. I also placed two more in the pockets of my jacket for later.
When I reached the forest that I had seen earlier from a distance, I caught my first glimpse of the farm. I had never seen the Sandford House, and was hoping that no one was living it. (Otherwise, I could find myself having to explain why I was there.) But I had reason to believe it was empty. What I discovered was a magnificent mansion, almost Gothic looking, with the windows boarded up, and a security fence all around it. The lane way that led up to it was, (oddly enough) lined with Walnut trees, and was already strewn with walnuts. In their branches a hundred birds were perched, chirping loudly. I could see a second house further away, also sitting empty.
A hundred birds were perched, chirping loudly
I walked around the Mansion taking photos, then walked over to an old chicken coop and took photos of it as well. When I had satisfied myself with that part of the property, I went and investigated the second house. It was much smaller and relatively newer. The door was open and so I decided to snoop around inside. The rooms were filled with trash and old periodicals. It reminded me of when I was young, and my friends and I would search abandoned houses for pornography. The upstairs appears to have been used as offices.
I left there and followed along the lane way. When I got about half way to the road, to my surprise I discovered a third empty house, which was in good shape, but locked up. In the backyard was a tiny retreat cabin. Their was also a well that I was able to pump water from.
Their was also a well that I was able to pump water from.
I soon found myself at Old Derry Road. I looked back on the Sandford Property and then towards the River. It was now clear to me that I wouldn’t reach Steeles Avenue. Instead, I decided to walk to the Conservation Area and call my sister to pick me up there. I crossed over the bridge, then stopped to take pictures of it. Several hundred feet away I could see an extremely large Oak Tree growing near the riverbank. I was a bit intrigued, and so left the road to go and look at it.. Not only was it an extremely large Oak Tree, but quite possibly the largest Oak Tree I had ever seen!
Before I reached the Conservation Building, I came across a Praying Mantis who appeared to be struggling through the grass and weed. I got him to attach himself to my hand, then looked at him up closely. His arms and legs were remarkanly delicate, and his head swiveled back and forth with a look of intelligence. He was in every way beautiful. I lowered him unto a long stem of grass, that he immediately grabbed on to. Maybe he will pray for me.